Bills heard in Washington to protect Ruby Mountains Desert National Wildlife Refuge / Public News Service
WASHINGTON, DC – Two bills to extend protection for Nevada’s public lands were heard yesterday by the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto – D-NV – sponsored the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, and co-sponsored the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act with Senator Jacky Rosen – D-NV.
Russell Kulhman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said the Ruby Mountains region is the crown jewel of Nevada’s public lands.
âIt is also home to the largest herd of mule deer in our state,â Kulhman said. “And any disruption – whether from mining, oil and gas development, or human development – would definitely jeopardize these wildlife corridors and the outdoor recreation the Ruby currently provides.”
The Ruby Mountain bill would exempt the area from the government’s oil and gas leasing program, which allows anyone to request that public lands be examined for oil, gas or mineral deposits and then auctioned.
The federal government rejected a request by speculators in 2017 to open 50,000 acres in the Ruby Mountains for lease. Justin French, an Elko outdoor enthusiast who hunts and fishes in the Ruby Mountains, said the frivolous requests kept land managers away from more important tasks.
âWe didn’t think it was fair to have to deal with someone who gave up some of it, or all of it, again,â French said, âwhen during the process they said that there wasn’t much for the oil-and-gas reserves there anyway. “
The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act would expand the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and add protections to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which provides important habitat for bighorn sheep.
Kuhlman said the southern Nevada bill would stop plans to expand Nellis Air Force Base.
“This would prevent the Air Force from coming, in the future, requesting that these areas be part of a firing range or additional training site,” Kulhman said.
According to the Outdoor Industry AssociationNevada’s outdoor recreation economy generates $ 1.1 billion in state and local tax revenue annually and supports 59,000 local jobs.
Support for this report was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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